Personal Best: Q&A With Alison Sweeney

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on April 15, 2014
6 min read

Alison Sweeney can be in several places at once and make it look easy. Take her two TV shows. She wrapped her 12th consecutive season as host of NBC's The Biggest Loser early in February. And after 21 years as troublemaker Sami Brady on that network's daytime drama, Days of Our Lives, she's leaving the popular soap at the end of November. She's been on the set of both shows for 7 years while honing her skills as a producer, director, and author. Now 37 and a mom of two, she looks forward to the launch this month of her second novel, Scared Scriptless, on the heels of last year's fiction debut, The Star Attraction. Sweeney reveals how she strives to be the biggest winner at living a healthy life.

Skin care secret

"The most important thing is sunscreen -- I use Coppertone Sport -- because I burn easily even on cloudy days. People can underestimate the power of the sun. We also need to use the right moisturizer for our skin and the time of year, and I like LaMer."

De-stressing formula

"I definitely do feel overworked sometimes, and the most tempting thing is to try and get enough sleep. With two kids and burning the candle at both ends, I feel like I can always find something else to do before I go to sleep, because that endless 'to do' list calls me."

Favorite healthy snack

"I reach for 2% or non-fat Greek yogurt with blueberries or almonds, cinnamon, and to sweeten, I use natural sugar, honey, agave, or stevia."

Healthy dinner

"I believe grilling keeps food 'clean,' so we grill vegetables and a protein like chicken breast, lean steak, or fish."

Three ingredients always on hand

"I keep eggs for breakfast or dinner, and for cooking and baking, and I keep tons of fruits and vegetables for cooking and eating. I have blueberries, strawberries, and cantaloupe -- oh, and bell peppers."

Eat healthy on set

"There's always oatmeal or steel cut oats for when I make my own breakfast. I also keep different flavored waters. I make a trail mix at home with raw almonds, dark chocolate, dried blueberries, cranberries, and sunflower seeds. When I have a day off, I like to get in a lot of baking or cooking as I plan for the week. For instance, Sunday I tried making new breakfast bars with almonds and oats -- delicious!"

A perfect day, no demands

"I love to read. I'll sit in my backyard with my dogs -- it's a fantastic way to start the day. Then I'll take time to go for a nice long run on the trails in L.A.'s Griffith Park, near my house. Because I like cooking, it think it's super fun to go to the local farmer's market in Studio City to get fresh ingredients, plus there's so much fun for kids there, too.

Fitness routine

"I do as much cardio as I can during the week, and I shoot for 5 days a week. Because of my schedule, I don't always make that goal, but I try. I also take [indoor cycling] classes. One day a week my endurance trainer comes to the house or we go to the park. I have a routine, and that level of fitness keeps me from being sweaty and tired after a workout. If there's something in my routine I don't like, I'll change it, because I don't want to do something I don't enjoy. I don't want to think of it as a chore or torture."

Healthy on the road and on the set

"I make sure I get plenty of water when flying, to prevent dehydration, and I supplement with plenty of vitamin C. Because we come in contact with germs while traveling, I wash my hands a lot. I find that working out when you get where you're going really helps put you into the right time zone."

Three makeup items always with her

I take lip gloss, and although I like lots of different kinds, I think Chanel has beautiful colors. I like a black pencil eyeliner to get that nice line around the eye, without looking like I'm using too much makeup. I use Cover Girl Perfect Blend. Oh, and I keep an eyelash curler, too.

Wish list of places

"I've been to so many places in the world, but next I'd go to Seattle and the islands off the coast. Along with those redwoods, those places sound so beautiful and interesting."

Always keep in your purse

"I keep a notebook -- for taking notes! I get ideas for my books, and need to write them down in the moment. I also have sunglasses and a little book with my kids' pictures."

Best advice

"Remember that your health applies to any goal you're striving to attain. No matter what you're working for in life, it's important to remember it's about the journey. If you think happiness comes when you 'cross that line,' you're never going to be happy. You must enjoy the process and enjoy learning, experiencing, working hard, and earning it.

"That's especially true with weight loss, for if you wait to get on that scale to be happier, to be proud, you're missing the whole point. Celebrate every push-up, every pound lost, and every meal when you make healthy choices -- don't wait or delay those feelings of success until the very end. When you weigh in, don't be frustrated with the number, but be aware you have something to learn and work on, and figure out why you didn't lose as much as you wanted. Remember the small victories and achievements along the way."

How to lose 5 pounds

"If I have a photo shoot and want to lose, I reassess my eating times and focus on the details. Sometimes, after I get the kids to bed, I eat dinner much too late -- last night, it was nine o'clock. If I'm pursuing a goal, I make sure I eat by six or seven. I feel it's really important to give yourself time to digest food and get it through your system before you go to sleep. You'll eat more throughout the day if you set yourself up to eat later. I also might cut out a glass of wine with dinner, and I make sure my meals contain a nutritious, satisfying protein. In between meals, I like to crunch on fruits and veggies."

Favorite cause

"It's Stand Up to Cancer, and I'm really proud the organization has touched so many lives and that funding actually goes to research. And I am an ambassador for City of Hope cancer center in Duarte, CA, and I'm so proud to be a part of delivering their mission statement. I believe in what they're doing because they're changing how we all care for the whole family when someone has cancer."

Deal with changes

"It's a new direction. I'm not afraid of change, though it can be intimidating. There's no reason to be concerned if you want to set yourself up for success. I'm excited for the future, ready to try something new and to have more time with the family. I'm excited for my book -- I love to write -- and I'm working at gaining new skills. I'm also proud of the effort I put into it, and can't wait to meet my fans when the book goes on sale."

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